The New Normal (and a little life update)

All this coronavirus stuff is wildin’, huh? It got even more wild last week because I am NOW an ESSENTIAL WORKER in the MEDICAL FIELD!!! Woot! I got a new job!!! I gave up all hope of being released from furlough from my previous job and have been job hunting and applying since middle of May. I’m a mashup of emotions during all of this. I have to work to live. I also am dedicated to entering the physical therapy part of the medical field. But there is also a pandemic going on and every human body seems to be reacting differently to the virus. Some are having a seemingly easy time with it, but others still have lingering health concerns which is unnerving since these people were seemingly healthy before getting the virus.

Back in February it was a sign of respect to shake someone’s hand firmly and look them in the eye. Now it’s a sign of respect to wear a mask and gloves and state that you will stay 6+ feet away from others at all times. My how quickly things change.

Here I am today on Saturday, June 20th and I have worked 7 days with the public. Getting screened every day for COVID (temp test and questions not the actual swab test) and having to wear a surgical mask 8+ hours every single day is now my normal life. I’ve discovered that (at least for me personally) the mask is a mind over matter kind of thing. I have to talk all day long in it – even on the phone – and it’s certainly doable. Annoying, but doable! When I get anxious in it I think back to the WWII autobiographies I have read over the years and all of the fears and worries and life or death things that they had to put up with and I remember that a mask is nothing to fuss about.

No one can enter the medical building where I work without being screened and masked. The screener then takes the forms that each patient fills out attaches them to their online file so that we can monitor who comes in and out of the office with various symptoms. Come in without a mask? You have two options: go home or wear the pillowcase of shame which is merely a pillowcase from the Physical Therapy dept that gets wrapped around your face like a bandana. Then the whole office knows that you forgot to bring a mask even when you were repeatedly reminded that you will not be allowed in the building without one. The times are wildin’. We now operate in a world where we only ever see 1/3 of people’s faces at any given time. Will this become our new normal?

Friday, June 19th

But tomorrow is Fathers Day and my Dad’s bday is soon so I decided it was time to not be home alone for the weekend and decided to take a mini road trip to the parents for the weekend. I have to be back at work on Monday morning, but I needed a little break already from the fast pace of the job and the ever-increasing threat of the Corona. I’ve created a system of clean pens and dirty pens at my station but when you assist 7 doctors and they schedule 1-3 patients every 15mins EACH – that’s a whole lot of items being touched. Not just pens… It’s hard to know how to proceed. And how to keep a healthy mindset during it all. One of the patients expressed her frustration to me that others were not taking the virus as seriously as she was. I understand the concern, but our entire office is risking their own health so that these patients can still receive care during the pandemic. It’s not an easy time for anyone. And not everyone can work from home. And ultimately… are you willing to stay alone for forever? Because this virus is going nowhere.

Every part of my body was dripping sweat as I made my way across dusty backroads of Texas. My area of Texas has two types of weather: Hot+Wet or Hot+Dry. When it rains, heaven help any item that’s not securely covered, contained, or secured because if the wind and the rain doesn’t damage it then the hail sure will beat it to death before the storm is over. Before long, though, you’ll be wishing one of those intense storms would come again because weeks on end of 95+ degree heat turns whatever is left into crispy brown scrub. I now know why the trees here look like they’ve had to fight for their life down here – they kinda have!

I’ve learned that riding with your windows down on a Texas road trip is ill advised regardless of how soggy you feel in your sweat-soaked clothing. It’s just too dry. You’re driving along with the wind drying your sweat into little salt rivulets when a gust of hot Texas wind picks up a cloud of dust, leaves, and pine needles and puffs it right into your car leaving your sputtering, teary eyed, and gritty as the dirt finds its way to every sticky, damp part of your body – all while barreling down the highway at 75mph because Texans believe heavily in “Wild ‘n Free”. It takes a surprisingly positive attitude to stay optimistic on a 4hour Texas road trip in 95+ heat with no AC. I can’t ever seem to pack enough refreshments. I may have to invest in a bigger cooler. That or I’m going to have to force myself into fixing my AC.

Texas has a pretty interesting landscape. It’s so massive that it contains a large variety of landscapes all in one state. Where I live there aren’t many trees. It’s more flat, sandy, and scrubby. It looks more suited to cattle grazing although I’m not sure what exactly they would eat considering how poorly the grass grows and how many cacti there are around. But as you drive farther north and kinda over towards the state of Louisiana you pass through the “pine curtain”. When you drive into this part of Texas you will immediately notice the clear distinction as both the wildflowers and the trees morph into different species. The ratio of deciduous to pine trees flip flops dramatically as deciduous trees become fewer and farther between. Think you have seasonal allergies? Just travel to Texas when the pine trees are mating and you will experience the intensity of pine fever as your immune system tries to learn how to handle the insane amount of pine sperm entering your respiratory system. There’s so much pollen floating around that it literally gets caught in your eyelashes and arm hairs.

Even more shocking than the pollen content of my arm hairs was the refund check I got this week for my Corona semester at school! They gave me HALF of my tuition back. Cha-Ching!!! AND I qualify for a CARES grant due to my stint with unemployment due to COVID so that should help with Fall tuition as well, which would also be super awesome. I’m chugging along with my summer Physical Therapy Assisting (PTA) class. It’s essentially an “all you need to know about the profession” kind of class complete with interviews of clinicians, mock program applications, case studies on patients, and presentations. All over Zoom of course. Took my first exam today, tho! Definitely getting more and more comfortable with these fast paced online classes. Dude, taking Anatomy & Physiology online only and completing multiple chapters a week while working full time and taking another class as well? Not for the faint of heart. And I decided to do it again…this Fall…

It’s almost time to reapply for volunteer positions at the hospital too, so I am hoping that if I cross my fingers and toes and hold my mouth just right I will be accepted to work with one of their PT’s in their various capacities. Here’s to hoping and praying. I can’t help but feel there is agism of some sort going on in the selection process for this PTA program. They make it exceedingly difficult to complete all of the application requirements while working full time. It’s as if they have tailored the application process to students or individuals who have much flexibility in their schedules. I spoke with one of the program directors for advice one how to get my observation hours while working 40+ hours because I keep being rejected due to my work commitment. Her advice? Take a leave of absence from work.


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